The Wayne County Public Schools' roughly $8 million wish list presented last week to Wayne County commissioners included a 1 percent increase -- about $650,000 -- for teacher supplements.
But while commissioners agreed that some sort of increase is needed, they said the percentage would likely be closer to a half or a third of a percent.
Also, they said they need to complete their review of the county budget proposal before that discussion is held. That is particularly true in a year in which sales tax and property tax revenues are expected to be tight, the board said at its Tuesday budget session.
Teachers receive a local supplement of 6.5 percent of their annual salary paid in two installments. Local supplement percents lag behind other area school systems, Wayne Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Dunsmore said.
A half percent increase over the next five years will begin to close the gap and allow the district to be more competitive, he said.
The proposal reflects an incremental increase each year and would increase the supplement rate from 6.5 percent to 9 percent in five years.
Dunsmore said if he were to prioritize the items on the wish list that teacher supplements are a huge need for the system based on the number of teacher shortages.
"When you look at where we are in relation to some of our neighboring counties that becomes an issue," Wayne County Manager George Wood said.
Dunsmore has done away with, except for some carryover, supplements for staff members who are not teachers, Wood said.
"I know that has been a bone of contention in the past," Wood said. "He can't do away with them where people already have them, but that is a very small number, and they are working that down as those people attrite out."
Wood said an additional 1 percent per year is "simply out of reach" in his opinion. But a half or a third of a percent could be possible, he said.
"But in my view you do need to be working toward that because if we don't keep up with what our neighbors are doing it is kind of like the problem we have in DSS (Department of Social Services), public health -- your better people are going to go elsewhere," Wood said.
Commissioner Joe Daughtery asked Wood if he had recommended any increase in the budget.
Wood said he had not.
Commissioners first need to go through the budget to see where the county is on everything else, he said.
"If you want to do that (increase for supplements) you can certainly do that," Wood said. "It is not recommended in the budget. But I did want to have this discussion with you because I do think going forward we do need to pay attention to the supplements because we are behind relative to our neighbors. It does impact their ability to recruit, but also to retain."
One of the problems is Wayne County cannot match Johnston County, he said. Johnston County loses people to Wake County and that is why Johnston County has increased supplements, he said.
Then what happens is Wayne County loses people to Johnston County.
"If we are at 6.5 percent and they are at, 12 or 13 percent I think -- that is a lot of money on a teacher salary," Wood said.
It is a tight year based on projected sales and property tax revenues -- a county's two largest sources of income, Wood said. But hopefully as the county resumes growing it can give more to the schools, he said.
The supplements are all local money and people need to understand that, he said.
Commissioner Joe Gurley agreed that the board needs to wade through the rest of the budget before tackling the school board's "monster" wish list.
"Based on affordability we should reward our good teachers," he said. "I guess my question back to the board of education is if we invest, and I prefer to do it annually and not set up a five-year plan, what benchmarks are they going to put into place? What is our return on investment?"
Gurley said good teachers need to be rewarded, but that he would like to see an improvement in student and school scores.
That is a discussion commissioners would want to have with the school board, Wood said.
Tuesday's meeting was recessed until 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 30, when the board will continue its budget discussions.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the Wayne County Courthouse Annex.
A copy of the budget is available for public inspection in the county manager's office on the fourth floor of the Wayne County Courthouse Annex.